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The Most Common Childhood Illnesses and What to Do About Them

Kids of all ages have access to a seemingly endless supply of germs. Whether from classmates, siblings or daycare, germs are a constant source of ailments – from the inconvenient to the serious – particularly during the winter months.

As a parent, it’s hard to see your children sick. But it’s important to know when your child needs the care of a doctor versus when they simply need rest and over-the-counter remedies.

Here are few of the most common ailments among children and when it’s time to seek medical attention:

1. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

RSV is a type of cold, and like all colds, there is no medication to kill the virus causing the issues. But there are ways to address most of the most common symptoms including runny nose, coughing, sneezing, fever, and wheezing.

What you can do at home

  • Clear up congestion using a suction device like a bulb syringe to pull out the discharge.

  • Use a cool mist humidifier in your child’s bedroom and give steamy baths to loosen congestion.

  • Relieve pain with acetaminophen (if over 2 months of age) or ibuprofen (over 6 months of age) as needed for fever, muscle aches, headaches, and sore throats. For ear pain, you can also put a warm washcloth over the ear.

  • Stay hydrated.

When to visit the doctor

Watch for signs such as trouble breathing, pale or blue lips and mouth, dehydration indicated by dry mouth or lethargy, as well as ear, chest or sinus pain which may indicate additional viruses such as ear infections, pneumonia, or sinus infections.

2. Common Cold

Does your child have a blocked or runny nose and watery eyes? Is he/she sneezing and coughing? Your child could be experiencing a cold. Colds are common among infants and toddlers. If the child’s body feels hot, he/she could also be running a fever.

What you can do at home:

• Stay hydrated with lots of fluids like water and low-sugar juices

• Stay home, avoid crowded places, and steer clear of sick individuals and other children

• Teach your child to use a tissue to blow his or her nose (if old enough), or to sneeze into his/her elbow

When to visit the doctor:

If your child does not get better after a few days, or if he or she starts running a high fever, it may be worth a quick trip to the doctor to be sure the cold hasn’t developed into something more.

3. Bronchitis

Bronchitis will show itself with wheezing, rapid breathing. or strained breathing. This is because bronchitis infects the small airways in the lungs.

What you can do at home:

• Keep your child hydrated with fluids like water and juices high in vitamin C

• Avoid smoky places, particularly tobacco smoke which can make your child’s condition worse

When to visit the doctor:

Bring your child to a doctor if he or she is wheezing for the first time or if the breathing is labored, and if the child is lethargic, lacks energy, or refuses to eat.

4. Stomach Flu (Gastroenteritis)

Nausea and vomiting are typically signs of the stomach flu or other gut infection. Additional symptoms may include muscle aches, abdominal pain, and even a slight fever.

What to you can do at home:

• Replace lost water and salts by keeping your child hydrated with fluids like water or juices that do not contain milk.

• Avoid school, daycare, and other people — stomach flu is contagious

When to visit the doctor:

Bring your child to a doctor when symptoms persist or worsen

5. Conjunctivitis

More commonly known as “pink eye,” conjunctivitis is easily recognizable by the red eye and sticky discharge that normally accompany this infection. Most cases of conjunctivitis get better on their own with a few self-care practices to provide symptom relief.

What you can do at home:

  • Gently wipe your child’s eyes with a clean, wet cloth.

  • Apply warm compresses to the eyes.

When to see a doctor:

It’s best to see a doctor as soon as symptoms appear, since most types of conjunctivitis can be very contagious. Based on the doctor’s diagnosis, he or she may recommend prescription or over-the-counter treatment.

Symptoms can shift from manageable to requiring medical attention at any time, and the medical professionals at FirstKids Urgent Care are prepared to help. We are a walk-in facility serving the Tuscaloosa area, so there’s no appointment necessary but you can schedule an appointment online here if you prefer. FirstKids accepts all major insurance plans, as well as Medicaid and self-pay patients as well.

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